tv Reliable Sources CNN December 25, 2011 8:00am-9:00am PST
challenge question was c, approximately 33% of the world's population is christian. and that percentage has been relatively constant for the last 100 years. go to our web site for more questions. thank you for being part of my program this week. i will see you next year and next week. stay tuned for "reliable sources." it's been a dizzying year for those of us in the news business as we've lurched from one scandal to another, one political candidate to another, one foreign revolution to another. think about it -- anthony weiner, dsk, herman cain, jerry sandusky, the campaign, donald trump, michele bachmann, rick perry, newt gingrich. the world stage, turmoil in tunisia, in egypt, in libya, in syria. we'll examine whether the media's coverage of these fast-moving events has been serious, sensational, or superficial, a year-end report card of sorts. plus, a conversation with ben
smith, who's leaving "politico" for buzzfeed. what is that? and a look back at our most provocative interviews of 2011. i'm howard kurtz, and this is the christmas day edition of "reliable sources." it's been a better year for scandal. some sleazy, some superficial, all devoured by the media. perhaps the most chilling came from the world of sports. first at penn state, then at syracuse university with popular coaches accused of horrendous acts. >> in retrospect, i -- you know, i shouldn't have showered with these kids. >> what's it? >> yeah, well, that's what hits me the most. >> are you a pedophile? >> no. >> another major scandal involved a global media
corporation, the one run by rupert murdoch with a slew of top executives arrested in a massive phone hacking operation. >> did you close the paper down because of the criminality? >> yes, we felt ashamed at what had happened and wanted to bring it to a close. >> and there were the inevitable political sex scandals. one topping a congressman, one exposing the dark side of a french politician, still another forcing a candidate out of the presidential race. >> is there a picture out there was you in your drawers that you are worried about? >> i think any normal person could say with certainty whether a picture was a photo of them or not. >> that's not a public of you? >> you know, i can't say with certitude my system was hacked. pictures can be manipulated, dropped in and inserted. >> strauss-kahn who denies all charge pleaded not guilty and was released in house arrest. what do you want? >> i want justice. i want him to go to jail.
i want him to know you cannot use your power like this. >> i know these are awkward questions, but i'll ask the questions that are going to be asked -- was this an affair? >> no. >> was there sex? >> no. >> none? >> no. >> with the nonstop scandals, jamie mcintyre, newscaster at mpr and senior pentagon correspondent. lauren ashburn, former managing editor of "usa today" and a contributor to the "huffington post." and fred frances, former nbc correspondent who now consults with clients dealing with the media in times of crisis. lauren ashburn, we had dominic strauss-kahn accused of groping a maid, anthony weiner aar, acc of sending pictures of his private parts. why is this so much in the media? >> it was like a train wreck. we were here listening to the tape shaking our heads saying, how can these people just go out
and deny and deny and deny? you know, it's the entertainment value of it. i've always said it's the peoplization of the media. we all love to see people fail. >> not to say these aren't serious allegations that should be covered. >> no, no, not at all. i'm not saying that. i'm telling you why the media covers what's going to get ratings. what's going to have interest, and these kind of stories have a lot of interest. >> there's also a loss of privacy that's been experienced with the explosion of new media and ways to get information out. it's just simply not possible to keep things secret and to cover up things that in the past you could. >> take the lens of coverage, titillation of famous people plus sexual misconduct equals circulation and ratings, or is there some lasting meaning to the stories? >>le wiell, the stories that yo highlighted are all important people in positions. these are not frivolous stories, nor are they frivolous charges. so you can have fairly high-brow coverage of low-prou stories.
>> and fred frances, a lot of it revolves around lying. people saying they didn't do it. dominic strauss-kahn said this was consensual sex. and herman cain said it was character assassination, none of the women was telling the truth. then the media turned it into a character test for the public figures. >> in each of ftd cases and so many others, it's an example of the arrogance and ego when people get to the power they are. it's the demonstration of their arrogance -- >> but it doesn't mean that we have to go wall to wall with it. >> i want to get to -- >> no, you have to -- >> i think you're wrong. >> why am i wrong? >> right -- fred was going to agree. in the case of herman cain, it's a presidential candidate. in the case of sandusky, this was a guy who was one of the legends at penn state. wall to wall is not i think appropriate, but i think a serious discussion and a lot of time spent on figuring this out is important. >> the strauss-kahn case is
compelling, the narrative was that he was a letch. the media latched on to it on that yet failed to think about ms. dialo having her own problems. >> it was something of a rush to judgment. everybody treated the guy like he was guilty. >> it was a rush to judgment. >> and to clarify, she credibility problems. she had lied to investigators. >> but so did a lot of the women who said they were sexually harassed or the woman who said she had an affair with herman cain. >> it's your point about whether the amount of coverage is over the top, that's a function of how the media has changed. all news cable outlets like cnn and other don't have to be the newscast of record of every important thing that happened today. they can and often do just focus on a couple of trending stories and smother them with coverage. i think with the news these days that's not entirely indefensible. >> let me make the point about
anthony weiner. he was given multiple opportunities to come deleon. >> he went on 27 shows and said he didn't do, it then he said in a press conference, yeah -- >> in the new year, hopefully we don't have to hear anthony weiner joke. >> and there were some going ones. we teach our clients in 15 seconds to tell the truth. even if it's a bad news story, the truth is only going to be a couple of days story, maybe a week. if you lie, it stretches it out to three weeks. >> that's -- >> that's the train wreck you were talking about of -- >> you just go -- people who are watching, you have a gut feeling about something. you can look into somebody's eyes, all the body language stuff that people tell you about. you can look into their eyes and say, hmm, he's looking down, i don't believe this -- >> and you may haven't to look at his eyes, there were pictures -- >> geez. >> last joke of the year. sorry. >> a very different tone as you started to allude to to the case of bernie fine at syracuse and jerry sandusky at penn state.
now you have children involved. in a presidential campaign, allegations come up, smeome peoe have fun with. these were not fun. >> it was sickening. >> it's a sad state of affairs when there needs to be parental guidance for people to watch a newscast. >> tiger woods, wall to wall with that. >> indeed. and the dart here goes to espn that had an audiotape of the syracuse coach for over a year -- >> no, eight years -- >> eight years. i'm sorry. >> the top executive said we didn't have enough, we didn't have a corroborating source. these are tough calls. >> if that audiotape had been of herman cain it would have been on senior citizen that day. >> the event -- on cnn that day. >> the event was even though the allegations were credible and the story was serious, we sought initially a backlash again the media. many people in the penn state community in particular felt the media was overplaying the story and going overboard, we even saw the demonstrations from people.
>> that was until jerry sandusky went on national television and you heard that clip. you're in the p.r. business. why would anybody allow him to do that? >> it's not just that as a lawyer allowed him to go television. it's that his lawyer has been trying to drum up media support. he's been trying to sell his story, and as if he were not an unsympathetic character as it is -- >> "the new york times." >> selling it to "the new york times." >> sell it -- it went on. >> in my view, the local press as is often the case in college towns builds up cases -- joe paterno who did nothing when he heard about the allegations, turned them into demagogues. >> and the harrisburg reporter came out and said, hey, this is going on, i'm publishing it. >> she was on the program, she did a great job. she's in her early 20s. and "the harrisburg patriot news" deserves a lot of credit. i want to turn to the murdoch phone hacking scandal.
"news of the world" got shot down. for the revelations and people whose phones were hacked into, not just celebrities and royals, by the way, how much did this tarnish or not tarnish murdoch and the news corp.? >> if you had followed the case and seen tactics employed by the british press to get information -- some of it is just shocking. you know, i've always been a critic of what's going on in the american press. and it -- but it always compares favorably to what's going on in britain. >> right. >> and these hearings have laid bare a lot of that process. >> and cnn's piers morgan testified in the inquiry, he was asked about some quotes that had been attributed to him a few years back. a widespread practice, he said, of the phone hacking. loads of journalists were doing it. he says now, i was repeating the fleet street rumor mill. >> he wasn't exactly doing it. piers morgan of cnn took the equivalent of the fifth when he wouldn't talk about how he learned that sir paul mccartney was talking to his elk wife, how he learned of that transcript of that phone message.
he refused to answer that question. and i think he has to come clean. >> he said he was protecting his source. >> yeah -- >> but he didn't take the fifth in denying that he had firsthand knowledge of phone hacking. was that proven -- parliamentary inquiry, did it prove that he did? >> the fact is so many reporters of the reporters, "the news of the world" and ""daily mirror" er, he was an editor of both. they said he knew what was going on. >> they said they believed he knew. i want to make that distinction. lauren ashburn, is there any lesson -- it's easy to be snooty from our side of the atlantic, say those british tabloids. >> right. >> a lot of american organizations do questionable things. is there any lesson here from the revolting behavior that some of these people pulled off -- >> i think we've talked about this a lot. you've had chris cuomo on the program cha who has talked about how it seems as if by paying licenses fees that we're offering people money to appear on television. and that is a slippery slope.
>> nbc has stopped that, to its credit. >> all done it over the years. i have done it at nbc. other reporters have done it. you buy documents. you pay for video -- >> photographs. family souvenirs. all right. >> photographs. >> it's still pay for play. >> glad to have that confession. when we come back, presidential campaign in which the media seemed to give each candidate 15 minutes of fame. a look at the 2012 coverage in a moment. truth is, nyquil doesn't un-stuff your nose. really? [ male announcer ] alka-seltzer plus liquid gels fights your worst cold symptoms, plus it relieves your stuffy nose. [ deep breath ] thank you! that's the cold truth!
that is better than today. since 1894, ameriprise financial has been working hard for their clients' futures. never taking a bailout. helping generations achieve dreams. buy homes. put their kids through college. retire how they want to. ameriprise. the strength of america's largest financial planning company. the heart of 10,000 advisors working with you, one-to-one.
the presidential campaign has been a roller coaster ride for the press with one republican front-runner after the other, one strange obsession after another. >> he doesn't have a birth certificate or hasn't shown it. he has what's called a certificate of live birth. that is something that's easy to get. >> michele bachmann won. that certainly cements her position as a serious player in this race. >> michele bachmann is in sync with a lot of the mood of the primary voter on the republican side right now.
>> i would do away with the education, the -- commerce. and let's see -- >> oh, my. >> i can't, the third one i can't. sorry. oops. >> the pundits would like for me to shut up, drop out, and go away. >> if anyone's dirty, it's newt gingrich. a man whose personal morality has been drawn from the sewer. a man who pontificates about his catholic faith and morality but repeatedly commits adultery. >> we'll take a second to recoil from that. you could say it's been a wild and crazy campaign, and it has. or you could say journalists have a.d.d. and keep flighting from one trivial story to the next. >> or voters have a.d.d. or the republican candidates -- >> you can't blame the voters. they haven't even voted yet. there hasn't been a single vote. >> the polls, i guess.
>> okay. >> it's been an extremely fascinating phenomenon to watch the coverage of the republican presidential candidates as they go -- as we lurch from one to the other. i'm not sure what lesson you can draw from that except -- go ahead. >> the media gets a i did proportionate amount of coverage. when it get drilled down, cain, others, they fade away -- >> how come people were so sad that cain left? now we're covering health care, right? i mean -- >> deal with the issues. >> you don't have to talk about an issue. >> you know, as we have caromed from one candidate and story to the next, we not only let -- it's funny to watch now, wouldn't let donald trump dominate this race. the guy was never going to get into the race. for weeks and weeks. but you could say the media let him push the obama birther issue, the phony issue, into the mainstream coverage. >> you could make the opposite statement that in each of these candidates that flamed out over time, it's because there was intense scrutiny of the things
that they said. whether it was herman cain's 9-9-9 plan or whether it was his personal life or whether it was newt gingrich and his record and his congress. in each case, we've seen them sort of raise to the top. we've seen a lot of tough reporting. then we've seen the fortunes change -- >> i have to agree with you about the voters. i think that among the republican party they're waiting for ronald reagan to come in with his lasso and on his horse. and yet they have all of these other people that they're not satisfied with. therefore, as you say with the polls, it goes up and down. forget it -- >> the polls don't just go up and down by themselves. there is the question -- the debates have been a major feature. there is a question of media coverage. and if we certainly drill down, to use your phrase o herman cain's tax plan or mitt romney's health care plan in massachusetts, all of that, why do journalists only do that when somebody is rising in the polls? it almost seems like we can only cover one or two candidates at a time. everyone else gets a pass.
the new person rises up and investigative reporters get unleashed. >> look at the control room. if you've been in the cnbc control room, there are 100 monitors. it's no wonder that reporters have a.d.d. we do focus on one -- we've done that. we go to the next, okay, arab spring, next, back to crane kraun. it's difficult to keep -- herman cain. it's difficult to keep all the balls in the air. >> you're buying the short attention span they're? >> i am. >> and the reason we don't give mitt romney the coverage is because the complaint is that he's boring. where is it written that a candidate has to be entertaining? >> and it might be good for the country. >> so are you suggesting that, you know, this is not just about the candidates who rise and then seemingly, inevitable fall in the gop polls. but remember all the noncandidates -- how many weeks and months did we spend, sairp might run, chris kristi was going to come in, saying it's not too late for someone to get in. meaning me. >> the other thing is how often the conventional wisdom is
wrong. how often the candidates were written off early -- >> newt gingrich. >> then reality sets in and we discover that all of the conventional -- the appealing narrative that's been pushed along by the media turns out to be flatly not true. >> i give you ron paul, okay? if we're talking about a quirky oddball kind of candidate, this man may win iowa. and he's been all but ignored the last seven or eight weeks. >> this is a fascinating case story. the editor of "national review" and republican pundits are trying to discredit ron paul. they didn't worry before. they say if paul wins the iowa caucuses, no one should take them seriously again. in other words, will be discounted by them -- discounted because ron paul went out, organized, got people excited and managed to win. >> he's wrong for the reason she said. it's conventional wisdom.
if you see the iowa caucus -- he will drop in the polls and ron paul will have money pouring in like we've never seen. >> this brings us to what we were discussing, that is the propensity of the press to people on, many would say, the candidate rising at the moment. ron paul has been out there all year. he was always going to get his share of the vote. t"the new york times" saying he used to have crazy newsletters with revolting, racist stuff, he claims he didn't see it. it was written in 2008. "the new york times" was blunt in saying we're bringing this to people's attention again. why not before? because nobody care good ron paul. >> well, you know, it's common sense that you're going to spend more time covering people who look like they'll have a chance to win. it was an something phenomenon to see the national review dedicate almost an entire issue to defeating newt gingrich once he was a viable --
>> gingrich unlike romney is great copy for the press. we love to write about his colorful language and his lobbying for freddie mac and his -- >> and tiffany's. >> right. >> it's starting to pile on for newt gingrich. frank broony, of "the new york times," wrote this piece last week that was the most scathing, ticking off this sort of missianic complex that newt gingrich had. more and more people will talk about how newt gingrich compares himself to franklin delano roosevelt and -- >> i think we've been befuddled this year, we in the establishment press, as we have said, you know, michele bachmann can't win, and newt gingrich, you know, was -- you know, was kind of run out of town when he was house speaker in the nine points in pie his own people. a lot of voters and people in nap and iowa not only want to
make up their own minds and not have us tell them who's viable and who's not, but for many republicans, it is actually -- you know, the fact that the media are ganging up on somebody in their view is a plus because they don't like the media. >> look at the way newt attacked -- what was it -- chris wallace at the debate. everybody started cheering. >> mickey mouse questions. >> there is that antipathy. we're down there with lawyers now. >> journalism has been famously been called the first rough draft of history. we're seeing rough drafts are getting rougher as time goes on. but they're also more -- they're revised more often and quicker in this information age. and i want to -- >> you all have given me different pieces of the puzzle here that amounts to what i think is a scathing indictment. you said we flip from story to story. you said we're bored by something like romney. you said we'd rather cover the birther issue than dig into the intick cease of health care. none of those are good. >> but none sell papers or get people to watch television. i'm saying that the factor is
going after the quirky candidates and the candidate of the moment or of the week is the fact that that's the most interesting story. >> let's step back. let's step back and look at this. by shedding the light on all of these people, no matter that we're doing it one teamwork, three, two, one, according to polls -- >> in kai on theic fashion -- -- chaotic flagz "tonight show." >> or if they're up in the polls or not up in the polls, i think if you look at our country as opposed to any other country, we are vetting these people in a way that is important to the decisionmaking practice. we're doing it, right? >> it reminds me of what churchill said, it was the worst form of government except every other government. this is the worst kind of journalism we've ever experienced except for the alternative. >> i think you're being too polite. yes, we're vetting the people, yes, the press digs out information and contradictions in the careers of these candidates, for voters to decide upon. the way that which we've done it, with the emphasis on entertainment values that you have action angeled and the
emphasis of going from one to the other, it's been a terrible year for the president. conventional wisdom is often wrong. we can decide next week -- >> we'll see it again next year. up next, a year of turmoil and try u.n. what became known as the arab spring. a challenging and often dangerous story for journalists. more in a moment.
♪ when the things that you need come at just the right speed, that's logistics. ♪ ♪ medicine that can't wait legal briefs there by eight, that's logistics. ♪ ♪ freight for you, box for me box that keeps you healthy, that's logistics. ♪ ♪ saving time, cutting stress, when you use ups that's logistics. ♪
you tell us what you want to pay, and we give you a range of coverages to choose from. who is she? that's flobot. she's this new robot we're trying out, mostly for, like, small stuff. wow! look at her go! she's pretty good. she's pretty good. hey, flobot, great job. oops. [ powers down ] uh-oh, flobot is broken. the "name your price" tool, only from progressive. call or click today.
it started in tunisia and spread to egypt and libya and syria. news organizations were faced with stories of stunning proportions as protesters challenged and toppled autocratic regimes. was dangerous duty for journalists in the line of fire. especially, as it turned out, for female correspondents. >> lara was covering the celebrations in cairo last friday when she was surrounded, sexually assaulted, and beaten. >> it's like suddenly before i know what's happening, i feel hands grabbing my breasts, grabbing my crotch, grabbing me from behind. i mean, it -- and it's not one person and then it stops. it's one person and another person and another person. >> we know that covering these middle east uprisings is a dangerous business. after what happened to lara logan, who thankfully was all right, there was an outpouring
from female journalists who said, yeah, the same thing happened to me, the same thing happened to me, but they hadn't talked about it. >> i think it's the third rail if you're an attractive female who is in broadcast journalism. you don't want people to be saying the only reason she got her job is because she's good-looking and if she's good-looking she should expect it. you keep your mouth shut and you don't bring -- >> is that a good course of action? >> no, of course it's not a good course of action. i was on your show and talking about sexual harassment and how prevalent it is in the workplace and the herman cain issue brought it up. no one wants to talk about it or will talk about it for 60 seconds, and then again we're moving on. >> lauren's right, they don't talk about it. let me tell you what they do about it now, and not just since what happened to lara logan. what they've been doing is hiring locals -- i'll give the example of the nbc producer who covers the middle east for
richard engle and producer. hired four or five big men that you hire, and who speak arabic so they can hear what the crowd saying and take her out as soon as they hear the crowd talking about this woman. >> i didn't mean the same thing happened to the extent that lara logan was assaulted. but being groped, harassed -- >> happens to everyone -- >> sure. if you look, it's egypt. i mean, there is state-sanctioned violence against women, rape and torture. and so it is a culture and atmosphere. but i think we have to be careful not to say that it doesn't happen everywhere and that we don't just, you know, say it -- it's only in arab countries. >> in a mob, it happens everywhere, whether it's latin america or in tehran. >> and regard will of gender, you've been in war zones. you know, there's the danger of war, but you could be embedded, for example, with the u.s. military in afghanistan or egypt. sometimes with protesters, with mobs, that can get out of control. and there can be no defense. >> yeah. there's a natural inclination
from reporters sometimes to not make the story about them. so they want to maybe not share everything that happened to them personally. >> they want to be anon server? >> they want to be an observer, they don't want to seem they're becoming part of the story. the reality is whether it's lara logan or -- a lot of times they are part of the story. and their firsthand account of what's going on says something about what's going on. the attack, for instance on, lara logan says something about what was going on in the egyptian society. >> careers are made -- mine was -- covering wars -- and diminished by the risk you take and the footage you get. that's in the back of every reporter's mind when they have coverage. if they could bank, it all of these reporters will be wealthy. they will never stop covering it because it's dangerous. >> you know, i think that there are a lot of people who watched the coverage of lara logan who said, come on. the same with anderson cooper. anderson cooper of attacked --
>> roughed up -- >> right. and so was the google executive. >> and the oh, come on -- >> and we hear you're out there to do a job, we hear it all over blogs -- >> she's lucky she survived. she's lucky she survived alive. >> a broader question about the arab spring. with egypt and the countries, it was a white-hot story for a while for the american media. then once the u.s. citizens are no longer involved, for example, in the aerial attacks in libya, that the american media kind of lost interest, after moammar gadhafi was killed. and of course there's tremendously important stories not just for the region but the world. >> really, that phenomenon, it's undeniable that that's the case. that the interest level of the american media goes down once direct involvement is diminished. we're certainly going to see that in iraq. iraq is not going to suddenly become a very peaceful place. this going to be a lot going on in iraq. but i predict in the next year, you'll see a lot less coverage of iraq with the last u.s. troops leaving -- >> last week the last u.s.
combat troops left iraq. you spent time there. the story seemed like an anti-climax. i think it's because the coverage began to fade seriously a couple of years ago. was that your sense, as well? >> the extent that american forces are fighting and dying in the country, the u.s. interest is much higher. as the number began to come down and the casualties came down, the interest in the war coverage dropped. >> and the media suffered from war fatigue. >> the story in syria and the media can't get in. i've seen reporters from american and political journalists crossing the border into syria. somebody's going to get killed soon. it's such a big story in northern sawyyria that it's drawing, even though american aren't involved, it's drawing journalists in to get the inside story. that's the story -- >> briefly, lauren, even when you have access, when it gets complicated, as in egypt, with the faction that's helped topple mubarak are fighting among themselves, that's a harder story to tell. >> yes, but isn't this the year that osama bin laden was killed?
does anybody remember that? we're not even talking about that at this table. >> interesting. >> right? he was killed this year. talk about short attention spans. you know, and that wasn't a complicated story. you know, i just think that egypt doesn't have to be complicatid. i think we're bored. >> that was a dramatic story and story that got coverage at the time. you're right, it almost seems like it happened five years ago. thank you very much for joining us. after the break, "politico" columnist ben smith is leaving to launch buzzfeed which features videos such as pandas love to somersault in the snow. what's up with that? we'll ask him. this is an rc robotic claw.
my high school science teacher made me what i am today. our science teacher helped us build it. ♪ now i'm a geologist at chevron, and i get to help science teachers. it has four servo motors and a wireless microcontroller. over the last three years we've put nearly 100 million dollars into american education. that's thousands of kids learning to love science. ♪ isn't that cool? and that's pretty cool. ♪
you may not be familiar with the web site buzzfeed, but it's got, shall we say, an eclectic mix of stories such as is selena gomez proposing to joseph lieberman, dogs in tiny sneakers, the top ten pranks of 2011, and naked female comediennes, puts your clothes back on, really. but it's been generating buzz since ben smith, top columnist and blogger for "politico" announced that he would take over as editor. why would he make such a move? i spoke to him from new york. ben smith, welcome. >> thanks for having me. >> the last time you were on the program you were talking about giving away your news on twitter
and how it was hurting your blog perhaps at "politico." i'm starting to think you were plotting your exit strategy. >> no, i wasn't. no better place to be than "politico" and was having a great time. at the same time, i was feeling this -- fact that i was getting most of might have news not from any particular home page but twitter. that lots of my friends who were not so plugged in to politics are getting news from facebook and other social networks, for sure. >> most people i would dare to say even in the media don't know what buzzfeed is. here are some of the categories on the site. lol, win, cute, fail, geeky, trashy, wtf. which of those will you be in charge? is this a good fit for you, ben? >> the site's going change a lot. what isn't going to change is that right now it's the baeting viral heart of the internet. it's a place where millions of people are going to find stuff to share. and what the folks who are
running the site, enormously successful already, have found that increasingly people want to share serious reporting. powerful photojournalism. the stuff that, you know, hard -- the stuff that we like to do. and so it's -- it's going to be a matter of melding things together. i'm sure there will definitely be fails along the way. >> not to mention some omgs -- >> and possibly lols. >> but you're obviously very steeped in politics. as i looked at buzzfeed, i saw politics, but i saw a lot of other stuff. >> yeah. i mean -- >> how do you make it into a go-to political site for the junctiones? >> it's going to be -- we're going to do a number of verticals. my job is not to come there and just do politics for sure. the way you make -- the way you make any site great is by hiring great people. we're going to basically in politics as in other areas, we're going to hire some great reporters and turn them loose. >> so explain to people who aren't officianados of the world, a site that's driven by social media, by people sharing
things with their friends, people who follow them, it's intriguing. at the same time, it's kind of the turning of the majority in the sense that can lead to silly stuff. >> i think the news environment is already driven by the social media. a lot of reporters are already, like myself, very aware of what people are talking about on twitter and facebook. they're trying to answer the questions that both insiders who are on the mediums and the general public have about the things. i don't think there's any more, you know, risk of dumbing down because people like dumb stuff than there is in print newspapers. i mean, i think it's a great advance from seo, the trend of the last few years where you were trying to -- >> let me break in -- seo, search, engine, optimization, putting in words and phrases that will cause people who are searching the internet on google to find you. therefore, you get traffic. >> where specifically, to trick search engines into putting your results at the top. you're writing the dumbest headlines as possible so
machines will like them. whereas making great stuff that people will like. certainly that includes cat pictures. i love cat pictures. if you includes like really hard, meaningful news. includes scoops. includes great explanatory reporting. >> so the headline says he's not abandoning cat pictures. but is there a democratic element to it in the sense that do you as the new editor get to decide what goes up at the top of the page? or are the most popular things as determined by your followers and friends and enemies going to get the most prominence because they've been shared the most? >> it's something we're figuring out now. i appreciate everybody's advice. right now for instance on buzzfeed, there's a hot list which shows the hottest things on the internet. it's a mix of russians and crazy video of a guy -- i like that. as a consumer i like to see what that is. as we introduced the original content, we're certainly going to be telling people what we think is important, as well. >> everybody write ben smith. he invited thespire world to
weigh in on -- the entire world to weigh in on this. given that there's a lot of traffic in summarizing, borrowing, what's out there on other people's sites, is this going to be a quirkier "huffington post"? >> you know, no. we're going to do a lot less aggregation than other folks do. if you're on twitter, reading the social media, you already know what the last story is. i don't need to be the 20th one to aggregate the great story in "the new york times" because you saw "the new york times" story. that was already sherrod twitter and on facebook. what you want is the next thing in the conversation. some original or fresh take on that. or it means -- you know, it means a scoop. original reporting. to me, as a reporter, that's what is so liberating and fun about this. that -- is that we're not going to be. what's particularly the scourge of young reporters' lives now, being the 20th perfect to aggregate some great story that somebody will broke is not something we'll be doing a lot of. >> it sounds like you'll be making it up a little as you go along. an interesting challenge. >> you think?
>> ben smith, thank you very much for joining us. ben smith will continue to write a weekly column for "politico." coming up, looking back at the most provocative interviews in 2011. fish. fantastic. ♪ this holiday, chevy's giving more. now qualified buyers can get 0% apr for 72 months on a 2011 chevy silverado. or 0% apr financing for 60 months plus no monthly payments until spring. ♪ yeah, i toog nyguil bud i'm stild stubbed up. [ male announcer ] truth is, nyquil doesn't un-stuff your nose. really? [ male announcer ] alka-seltzer plus liquid gels fights your worst cold symptoms, plus it relieves your stuffy nose. [ deep breath ] thank you! that's the cold truth!
time for a look back at 2011 with the most revealing interviews. we spoke with ted koppel about the rise of a digital culture that values 140-character messages such as on twitter. >> there's no way of saying this, howard, without sounding a little bit like an old man who is losing touch. >> go ahead. >> with new technology. but the fact of the matter is that in a democracy, an uninformed electorate is the greatest danger that there is. if -- if our -- if we confuse just the rapid-fire exchange of small morsels of information on trivial subject with real information, then i think we knock the props out from under a really functioning democracy. >> dallas mavericks owner mark cuban, a prolific blogger, tried to slam-dunk traditional sports journalists, bypassing them with
his own web site. >> if you look at what has happened with the sports media as they cover sports teams, they -- they've changed, as well. you know, the goal is no longer journalism. they've had to respond to all these elements, twitter and facebook and deal with the business impacts on their -- in their world. and so they have to respond far more quickly. they do it with fewer filters. they don't look for first and second and third sources. they don't even look for sources. you have this twice-removed headline problem where something starts as a headline or something starts -- something is written as opinion by someone who's a reporter. >> right. >> but it's picked up as quote that then turns into fact seven times removed. there's all these elements that i have to take into account because the world has changed. >> we had a candid conversation with longtime abc anchor carol simpson, who spoke of the pluses and minuses of being a black journalist. you invoke affirmative action as a perception that some had about why you got this break or that
break in your career. but in a way, the flip side of this is, affirmative action also helped you. >> it did, and i'm proud to say i'm an affirmative action baby. i'm glad some people looked around the newsroom and said we need one of those, somebody that looks like that, that dresses like that. if that had not happened, i don't know where i'd be. so affirmative action is such a bad term now. i mean, god forbid, affirmative action. but, you know, we need it back because i look around at the networks today and there are fewer african-american correspondents than there were in the '80s. >> jim lehrer stopped by to talk act hiss history of moderating 11 presidential debates. i asked him about a famous moment on "the news hour" after the monica lewinsky story broke. this is how you handled it. >> mr. president, is that true? >> that is not true. that is not true. i did not ask anyone to tell
anything but the truth. there is no improper relationship, and i intend to cooperate with this inquiry. but that is not true. >> no improper relationship. define what you mean by that. >> well, i think you know what it means. it means that there is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship or any other kind of improper relationship. >> you had no sexual relationship with this young woman. >> there is not a sexual relationship. that is accurate. >> and what did you miss in that answer? >> oh, man. i missed what he was saying. i missed the whole -- i mean, thank you, howie, for running that. >> it's in the book. >> i know it's in the book. it's the single worst professional mistake i ever made. here again, i was -- i was nervous, no question about it. you have to be nervous in a situation like that. this was the first interview after the story broke. and i let my nervousness get the best of me. and he -- i was speaking in the past tense. he was speaking in the present tense. >> you followed up. >> i did. >> he kept saying there is no
improper -- >> i thought oh, my god. fortunately, i escaped because there was so much stuff about it. >> yeah. >> and nobody -- nobody -- no howard kurtz came along and handled me -- i hang my head over it. >> he didn't make many mistakes. in a moment, some of our interviews. [ mujahid ] there was a little bit of trepidation,
not quite knowing what the next phase was going to be, you know, because you been, you know, this is what you had been doing. you know, working, working, working, working, working, working. and now you're talking about, well you know, i won't be, and i get the chance to spend more time with my wife and my kids. it's my world. that's my world. ♪
we've offeren talked about networks paying interview subjects for pictures or videos. when congressman anthony weiner was under scrutiny for sending women lewd pictures of himself, there was a defense even though he didn't much like it. abc paid megan broussard $10,000 to $15,000, i'm told, the ones she sent him or he sent her? >> the ones she sent him. >> no pictures of him. >> no. >> did that bother you? >> no. >> does it look like she's trying to cash in, talking to abc? >> yes, it does. one of the things we have to deal with in the business. the commercial exigencies of the business reach into every aspect of reporting now. >> this wasn't your decision, but if the network didn't pay her something she might go to someone else who might well be ready to open the checkbook. >> true. i appreciate the protection you're giving me, but i don't want it.
it is my decision. >> you could have walked away from it. >> i could have said don't do it. i don't because it is the state of plait right now. i wish it were not. i wish money was not in the game. but you know it's going to go somewhere else. >> the good news, he helped persuade abc to end the practice of paying interview subjects. the allegations of sexual abuse at penn state and syracuse came as a shock. i asked espnews chief vince doria about the network's decision to sit on allegations against the syracuse basketball coach eight years ago. a lot of people wondering, fairly or unfairly, why espn didn't notify the police in syracuse, new york, back in 2003 since you were sitting on this audiotape, even if p it wasn't totally verifieverified. is that something that journalists should do? >> i understand the argument. and it is a reasonable one coming from people who are not approaching this from a journalistic stance. we look at our material. we gather information. we assess it. we vet it. we determine whether or not we feel we're able to report it. in this case, we felt we were
not able to report it. that being the case was not our job to deliver it to law enforcement. >> these are tough calls when an alleged predator is involved. then there was the phone hacking scandal that led rupert murdoch to shut down news at the world. after we tracked him down at the bar, we spoke to paul mcmullen, a former reporter at the tabloid, who defended the tac c tactic. >> my argument is if you want to have a free democracy and an open society where politicians behave well, you've got to have a press that is allowed to stray into the area of the dark arts, not illegal area, to catch people out, because fundamentally you don't go to a politician and say, hello, i'm a news of the world reporter, are you filling your expenses, are you having an affair with your secretary while presenting yourself as a happily married man? you've got to be cleverer than that. you've got to catch them. so i think that's the public interest defense. sometimes it's in the best interests of the country to have -- i mean, a